Swagger and Tenderness: The South Bronx Portraits by John Ahearn & Rigoberto Torres

Inspired and enabled by the people who live in the vibrant community where the Bronx Museum is located, local artists John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres have become world-famous for their portraits of their South Bronx neighbors. While museum-goers elsewhere have celebrated these renowned sculptures honoring Bronxites for four decades, this is the first time a large group of these artworks will be exhibited together at home for the very people represented therein. This major survey exhibition mirrors the creative and loving residents of the South Bronx whose personal stories and innovative aesthetics both reflect and shape culture internationally. 

Ahearn and Torres are often praised for uplifting their subjects, thus representing social justice, diversity, dignity, and equity. This exhibition conveys how the subjects also uplifted the artists, making these portraits powerful by contributing their knowledge and spirit as well as their physical form. These timeless artworks celebrate the swagger and tenderness—the true power—of our beautiful, stylish neighbors. The show aims to bring attention to the value of every individual and family who has helped shape this proud, unique, and influential community. Swagger and Tenderness is framed by and for the very community that nurtured and empowered Ahearn’s and Torres’s creative talents.

This show will feature over 60 portraits alongside archival materials from 1979 to the present, from the Bronx Museum Collection and other public and private collections. The portrait sitters provided visibility to Ahearn and Torres, and received it in return. The exhibition catalog will include interviews with portrait subjects, poetry by Bronx authors, illustrated curatorial essays, and a graphic novel written by Ron Kavanaugh and illustrated by Sole Rebel, both from the Bronx. The exhibition will be designed by the curators in collaboration with Bronx-based architect Jorge Plazas and Darío Nuñez-Ameni (former architect of Vito Acconci Studio–Acconci was born in the Bronx). Curatorial advisors from the community include Alveda Alston, Leenda Bonilla, Johnny Chavarria, Luís A. Pagán, and Moisés Rivera.

Organized by Amy Rosenblum-Martín in collaboration with Ron Kavanaugh, Executive Director, Literary Freedom Project.

Watch our Teen Council in action with a visit to John Ahearn’s studio! 

Oct 26, 2022 - Apr 30, 2023
    • John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres, Maria Greeting her Mother, 1987, oil on cast fiberglass. Courtesy of the artists.
    • John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres, Barbara (for Ethiopia), 1982 -1985, oil on reinforced polyadam and wood. Courtesy of the artists.
    • John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres, Janelle and Audrey, 1983, acrylic on plaster. Collection Carolyn Alexander, Renwick, NJ.
    • John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres, Corey, 1988, oil on fiberglass and acrylic on plaster and wood. Courtesy of the artists.

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